Here’s a fact that will surprise no one: I spent a lot of time indoors as a kid. One of the biggest reasons behind my lack of Vitamin D was Guild Wars.
Back in the days when broadband was still a new concept, my brother introduced me to an MMO called Guild Wars. Our parents barely wanted to pay for the internet as it was, so immediately WoW was out the window. We wouldn’t stand a chance of getting anything subscription based. So when we heard this MMO had no subscription, we were all for it. Finally, a chance to get a piece of the MMO pie!
This was technically my brothers account, but he allowed me to have 1 of the 4 slots available. I spent my time trying to level up my Elementalist, albeit whilst fighting for control of the PC. The idea of playing a game with people all over the world was new to me. I was only about 12 at the time, still fairly naive when it came to the internet. I knew I had to be careful with other people, they might not be who they said. But all the same it was exciting!
Every time I ran across someone with a name Final Fantasy I basically took it as “I have a new friend!”. Trust me, there was no shortage of ‘Aerith’s or ‘Tifa’s anywhere. Even my own name was a combination of Aeris and a random elven word from LotR. But since I was a young girl who knew no gamers IRL, it was a fresh novelty.
It took me a lot longer to level my character than my brother. I must have been afraid to advance past the starting area because I knew you couldn’t go back. Regardless I was able to advance far enough. At some stage or another my brother joined a guild, warning them that I also used the account. The first time I logged in after that, people were asking me about missions I had no idea about. It took a few minutes to click. Luckily, there was another girl my age in that guild, who became my first online friend. We lasted a year or so questing together until she stopped logging in.
It wasn’t uncommon to see people leave by then. The game had been out a while and no new content had come out. Little did we know the first expansion was right around the corner. Thankfully, my brother had given up on the game by then, leaving 3 empty character slots behind. Finally, I had free reign to try all the classes i never got to, and I fell in love.
I tried every class at least once, but my favourites were always Elementalist and Monk. No matter what game I play I always default to mage classes. Guild Wars was no different in that regard. But there was something about those classes that I’ve yet to find a parallel to in other games. For example, I’ve been trying to learn priest in WoW recently. And while I seem to have defaulted to the support class in every single game since then, I don’t get the same feeling as playing Monk in GW. The mechanics are the same, cast the healy spells and try not to die. But there was something that felt more unique about Guild Wars that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s just a fog of nostalgia though!
I must have kept playing that game for about 4 years. I met one of my best friends through secondary school through this game. If I counted the amount of hours I had spent just sitting around in a random in-game location talking to her, it’d likely be higher than my time spent questing. I never regretted any time wasted doing this though. I had befriended someone in a different country, in different circumstances whom I never would have met otherwise. And sure, people thought I was weird when I told them my best friend lived in Wales, but I didn’t care. I was just happy I got to spend my afternoons calling fire from the heavens and having a great time.
The point I’ve been trying to get across was that I really loved this game. But I logged into it the other day. After spending roughly 40 minutes downloading, installing and downloading each area, I finally got to log in. The results were… less than stellar. Guild Wars has a sequel, and is over 10 years old at this stage. It’s no surprise that it has no players. In fact I was surprised I could get on the server at all.
I spent about half an hour running around in some old areas. I visited my Guild hall, never a highly populated area but one that held sentimental value to me. Then ran around the previously most populated areas, Lion’s Arch and the Temple of Balthazar. Sadly, the only players I found were bots still trying to recruit for their guilds. Literally the only evidence I found that anyone was still playing at all was a pop-up saying “*Random Guild Name with Taiwanese letters* has won a game in the Hall of Heroes”. The Hall of Heroes was a PvP arena, where if you won enough the entire server heard about it. It was an 8v8 game mode. So at least 16 players, presumably from Taiwan, were the only people left in all of Guild Wars.
Now, this might seem fairly depressing to most people. But logging in for that half hour actually left me somewhat happier. I am sad that all those experiences I had back in the old days are never going to come around again. I’ll never get the chance to sit around in my guild hall and shoot the breeze. Or spend an hour or two rushing a dungeon so I can finally craft the armor I wanted. I’ll never get to see someone with a Final Fantasy name and get excited again. But having those memories was enough. I have to do what Nintendo fans have been failing to do for decades, and let the past go.
So in that spirit, here’s to the future of MMO gaming, however long it lasts before being squashed out by MOBA’s. I’m gonna try my hand at some more WoW until priest starts rubbing off on me.